Constance Wagner, 1968
Constance Wagner, 1963 (Khartoum)
Constance Wagner, 1959 (Chicago)
Her home in Eureka Springs, AR(1942-1953)--photo 1953
The house in Eureka Springs, AR, around 1942
The Eureka Springs house, around 1942
Constance Wagner, 1950--from a portrait by Edward Wagner, used on dustjacket for SYCAMORE
Constance Wagner, 1940 (Chicago)
Constance Cassady (Wagner), 1937
Constance Wagner (Florence Reynolds) (holding a doll), Horace Mann School for Girls, New York, around 1920
Constance Wagner (Florence Reynolds), New York City, about 1919
Constance Wagner (born Florence Reynolds), about 1906
CONSTANCE (CASSADY) WAGNER 1903-1984author
CONSTANCE WAGNER (1903-1984) has also been published under the name CONSTANCE CASSADY. She was the author of five published novels and two juvenile works as well as numerous short stories, articles, and book reviews.
She was born Florence Reynolds on 12 February 1903 in Pittsburgh, PA, the first child of Joseph and Mary Reynolds, formerly both of Boone, Iowa. When Florence was 8 years old, she was given over to her paternal aunt and uncle in New York City. In 1914 they were living in Vevey, Switzerland, until the outbreak of the First World War.
She attended the Episcopal St. Agatha's School for Girls and later the Horace Mann School for Girls. Two of her poems appeared in the Horace Mann Record in 1918, and another contribution appeared in 1919.
When she was in her late teens, the aunt and uncle moved to Chicago, and she graduated from Nicholas Senn High School.
She then attended art school where she met and married William Cassady, an artist. They lived in the Chicago area, and had a daughter and two sons.
As Constance Cassady, she began her career as a freelance writer with short stories and articles published in numerous periodicals, including the Atlantic Monthly and Collier's. Her first book was an alphabet book for children, written in verse with illustrations by the well-known children's book illustrator, Helen Prickett.
Her second published book, Kitchen Magic, an introduction to cooking for children, appeared in 1932.
Her first novel was written with Ruth Cardwell as co-author, Even in Laughter and appeared in 1935.
Her second novel, This Magic Dust, was published in 1937.
The couple were divorced, and she worked for a newspaper clipping service, then married Edward Wagner, a Chicago-born artist, in 1938. The couple lived with her three children in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago, and in 1940 had a daughter.
In 1940 her novel The Major Has Seven Guests appeared after being serialized in Maclean's in 1939 . (The Maclean's serialization uses the name Constance Reynolds.)
In 1942 the family moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Constance Wagner's two sons, as well as her husband's son by his first marriage, served in the Second World War.
In the winter of 1944-45, the couple lived in Texas with their daughter, then returned to Arkansas.
In the years in Arkansas Constance Wagner continued to write and publish short stories and articles in such magazines as Extension, the New Yorker and Chatelaine.
In 1950 her novel Sycamore, set in the Ozarks, appeared.
While in Arkansas she was instrumental in founding the Ozark Choral Club, which she directed until Joseph Metzger took the baton. The group performed in concerts around the northwest Arkansas region. They sang holiday carols as well as a somewhat abridged version of Handel's Messiah. They also performed folksongs at the annual Ozark Folk Festival.
In 1953 the family returned to Chicago, and in 1958 her husband died. Her last published novel, Ask My Brother, appeared in 1959.
In 1960 she returned to Eureka Springs, later moving to Fayetteville, AR, where she became slide curator for the University of Arkansas Art Department. In 1963 she traveled to Khartoum in the Sudan to visit her older daughter, who was living there with her husband.
In the 1960s-1970s she was awarded two fellowships at the Macdowell Colony.
In 1965 she moved to Norman, Oklahoma, where she became the Assistant Editor at Books Abroad (now known as World Literature Today) at the University of Oklahoma. Many of her book reviews, as well as her English translations of reviews in French, were published in the pages of Books Abroad. She retired from this post in 1970 and moved to Fayetteville, AR, where she remained until 1979.
In 1977 she was interviewed by Ellen Shipley of the University of Arkansas Libraries. The interview has been preserved on audiotapes in the University's Special Collections Section. A transcription of the tapes is also available through the library.
She moved to San Leandro, California, in 1979. In her last years she continued writing, and contributed columns to the Oakland Tribune.
On 21 June 1984 she died in San Leandro.
Her papers, including published and unpublished works, are on file at the University of Arkansas Special Collections Department.
“The co-authors of this capably written first novel [Even in Laughter] have here dealt with the depression from a viewpoint dissimilar to that of most books essaying that grim but popular subject…. The authors level many a shrewd slant upon the problematic aspects of their theme….” –E. C. Beckwith, New York Times Book Review, 21 April 1935
“Here is a first novel of joint authorship which is expertly and entertainingly devised…. Even in Laughter is ingenious in structure, and loses no time swinging into action. The characters are numerous, but they are not dumped into the narrative—or into your mind—with the confusion which not infrequently attends such exercises.”—New York Herald Tribune, [1935?]
“The Major Has Seven Guests, by Constance Wagner, is a goody, straddling the thriller and good fiction fields, with the setting a small Balkan Fascist country.” –Saturday Review of Literature, 5 February 1940
“In this near-detective story [The Major Has Seven Guests] she spins a lively yarn about seven people who were politely arrested in a country called Pragda because one of their number was supposedly connected with a spy ring… Written with smoothness and sophistication, this entertaining story (by a Chicagoan, by the way) is glamorous, imaginary adventure.” –Kenneth Horan, Chicago Daily News, 20 March 1940
“The narrative [of The Major Has Seven Guests] is well told and plotted, and neatly characterized. First-rate reading.” –New York World-Telegram, 4 April 1940
“There is some brilliant writing in the unfolding of the story [The Major Has Seven Guests] and characters, particularly in the interplay of emotions. The climax is highly dramatic, bringing on the betrayal of two of these people. The sharp portrayals and nuances recall some of the best in De Maupassant.”—S.M.K., Chicago Tribune, 3 April 1940
“[The Major Has Seven Guests] is a stirring and exciting novel, with the suspense steadily increasing as the devious workings of Mrs. Holdgate and Mungo and the eagerness of the major for a victim lead Moss and Polly Targ to their tragic end.”—John T. Appleby, Washington Post, 21 July 1940
“And it is part of the subtlety of Mrs. Wagner’s well written story [Sycamore] that, apart from Walter’s discovery that his mother’s private virtue might be a dubious asset to the community, she leaves the outcome of the conflict of values in doubt.”—Lewis Gannett, New York Herald Tribune, 15 November 1950
“The town [in Sycamore] comes through absolutely as a place; the people really live in it; place and people fuse in complete conviction.”—Richard Sullivan, Chicago Tribune, 14 January 1951
"The author's evocative descriptions of the Ozark seasons [in the novel Sycamore], and her ability to convey the sense of changing times in the hills are what recommend her novel as a superior accomplishment...."--Robert L. Morris (University of Arkansas), Arkansas Historical Quarterly, vol. 10, no. 1 (Spring 1951), pp. 105-106.
“A narrative [Ask My Brother] made solid by its background, its self-revealed characters and its hold on the imagination.”—Kirkus, 15 November 1958
“…[Ask My Brother] is a consistently interesting, generally well wrought tale of north and south.... The author has worked well with her material.”—Harnett T. Kane, Chicago Sunday Tribune Magazine of Books, 8 February 1959
“[Ask My Brother] is an excellent story of the war and the characters stand out so clearly in their own right that one knows them well.”—Katharine Shorey, Library Journal, 1 February 1959______________________________________________